List Values and Arrays

Now that we've talked about context, we can talk about list literals and how they behave in context. You've already seen some list literals. List literals are denoted by separating individual values by commas (and enclosing the list in parentheses where precedence requires it). Because it (almost) never hurts to use extra parentheses, the syntax diagram of a list value is usually indicated like this:


Earlier we said that LIST in a syntax description indicates something that supplies list context to its arguments, but a bare list literal itself is the one partial exception to that rule, in that it supplies a list context to its arguments only when the list as a whole is in list context. The value of a list literal in list context is just the values of the arguments in the order specified. As a fancy sort of term in an expression, a list literal merely pushes a series of temporary values onto Perl's stack, to be collected off the stack later by whatever operator wants the list.

In a scalar context, however, the list literal doesn't really behave like a LIST, in that it doesn't supply list context to its values. Instead, it merely evaluates each of its arguments in scalar context, and returns the value of the final element. That's because it's really just the C comma operator in disguise, which is a binary operator that always throws away the value on the left and returns the value on the right. In terms of what we discussed earlier, the left side of the ...

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